Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
Don't Panic (Yet!)
By: Tony Butcher
A BRIGHT, sunny, cool day and spring was in the air, everywhere we looked around. Around 700-750 Town fans eased themselves into the sliver of seats way, way up in the usual corner (as seen on the far left on TV). It's almost in the car park.
Birmingham City 4 Grimsby Town 0
30 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The Town players warmed up in twos and threes, with the crowd playing "spot the new man". The slightly slimmer Galli-a-like was revealed as Robinson, with the thicker set, less mobile man waddling around the periphery being Falconer. The players ran off down the tunnel one-by-one to appreciative cheers, Todd even gave a thumbs up and signed autographs. How relaxed, we thought. Butterfield made sure he ran off immediately behind Coldicott, perhaps to ensure some Stacy loving lapped over him too.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. (the programme called Boulding, "Goulding"). Usual players in the usual places. Nothing to add.
Town kicked off away from the Town supporters and gave a 20-minute masterclass in calm, collected, possession football. Birmingham barely touched the ball, and never got inside the Town penalty area, let alone bothered Coyne. The Town fans just sat back with knowing, smug smiles, as the Birmingham supporters sat in silence. Within 5 seconds Gallimore had dummied a striker with his "drag inside" maneuver. Confidence or what!
When I say nothing happened for six minutes, nothing did. Just Town possession and the occasional foray by Birmingham down the flanks, which petered out 25 yards from goal. Town simply tipped and tapped, tipped and tapped down the flanks, across the middle, up the other flank and back again. McDermott even produced a back heel to Butterfield on the half way line to continue a 10-pass move. Ole!
The first real interest came in the sixth minute when the back four played the ball around, then across to Todd who, from the middle of the Town half, pinged a perfect pass over the Birmingham defence for Boulding to run on towards goal. Absolutely perfect, except for one thing. The linesman put his flag up after Boulding had controlled the ball. Mmmm, very suspicious. The suspicions were not dampened by the linesman with the yellow flag, right below us, who kept failing to raise it when Birmingham players were very offside. Mmmm, very, very suspicious.
But why should we care if Town were controlling the game, plainly toying with inferior opposition. Every five minutes Town almost thrust the rapier into the Brum hearts. The important word being almost. After 10 or so minutes a Birmingham central defender managed to head a hopeful lump forward back across goal to a position about 35 yards out, right in the centre. Campbell scampered across, controlled the ball on his chest and hit a first time, swinging, dipping, volley which ballooned up and over Vaesen, who arced back and spectacularly tipped the ball over the bar. The corner was swung in from the left by Pouton and the ball drifted through the six-yard box with everyone standing and staring, if not caring. The ball lolloped over the bye-line for a goal kick a few yards beyond the far post.
Butterfield fell beautifully to win a free kick out on the touchline. Such poetry in his motion, such care in his slip, and all at walking pace too.
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